Expenses inquiry to report early

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Indy Politics

A fundamental review of the House of Commons allowances system could report to MPs as early as October, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Sir Christopher Kelly said yesterday.

The report was initially commissioned by Gordon Brown for next year, but its deadline was shifted forward to the end of 2009 after details of MPs' claims became public, and Sir Christopher said yesterday that efforts were being made to accelerate it further because of the "great desire that so many people have that we should get this over quickly so we can put this dreadful episode behind us".

Meanwhile, Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman confirmed that ministers aim to complete the passage of legislation creating a new independent regulator for MPs through Parliament before it rises for the summer on July 21.

Ms Harman told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "I think it has been a traumatic thing, this big collapse in confidence and the crisis over MPs' expenses, but we are going to end up with a much cleaner, better, clearer system and everybody can be confident in that and we can address ourselves to the big challenges facing the country."

Sir Christopher said his committee would consider the interim measures already agreed by Parliament – including a cap on housing costs and a requirement for receipts for all claims – but reserved the right to reject them or to go further.

Policing of MPs' claims had been "pretty poor" in the past, said Sir Christopher, adding that with the introduction of transparency and better auditing he was "fairly confident that we can produce a much better system than exists at present".

He appeared to hint that he will not recommend a total ban on outside work for MPs, saying that this would risk losing "quite a lot of experience and diversity" from the Commons. But he also acknowledged that voters want MPs to work full-time on their behalf, and insisted he would not pre-empt his committee's conclusions on the issue.

Sir Christopher revealed that he had proposed an inquiry into the expenses system to Mr Brown before the current crisis developed, and before the PM commissioned him to carry out an inquiry in March. He said he was "surprised and shocked" by the extent of the abuse uncovered by the Daily Telegraph's investigation into parliamentary allowances.